Roundup 285

SPARKS TO WATCH

1. We’re still praying for peace in Ukraine. I am pleasantly surprised fighting didn’t begin this week. Yet tensions and threats continue, and the possibility of war remains.

2. Two stories this week highlight how much China has closed to outsiders.Pray for the many who are still trying to work there, and for the believers who live in the context of restrictions, challenges and often persecution.

3. Reports in the press and and things I’ve been told suggest the situation in Ethiopia is improving, with most of the instability limited to the northern states. The lifting of the state of emergency is a very good sign; peace talks of some kind may be forthcoming. Let’s pray for and support ministries in the area as they work in these less-accessible provinces.

4. Pray for Libya. Some weeks ago people wrote hopefully about potential peace and elections. Those appear to be indefinitely on hold, and the mercenaries, fighting, and death continue. Once upon a time, a wave of spiritual openness was found in this land. Pray that in spite of the situation on the ground, opportunities for blessing to spread will be found.

New Events

North Africa + West Asia = NAME (570m)

International engagement in Libya is worsening the prospects for peace. NewHum
… “a testing ground for foreign military equipment” …
… “tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries” …
Tunisia’s Pres. Saied seized power over the judiciary. Al Jazeera
… shows no sign of giving up control any time soon. Deep dive – Middle East Eye

East Africa (520m) 

How South Sudan’s peace deal sparked conflict in a town spared by the war. NewHum
Ethiopian parliament votes to lift state of emergency early. Al Jazeera
‘Afar has been raided’: Suffering stalks Ethiopia’s forgotten front. AFP
… fresh rebel offensive yields massive destruction, displacement …
WHO is able to get supplies into Tigray, though distribution hampered by fuel issues. ABC
Severe drought = hunger crisis threatening half of Somalia’s under-5s. Al Jazeera

West + Middle Africa (600m)

France announces a total withdrawal of troops from Mali. WPost
… After nine years of grinding warfare, 3.5m displaced & militant gains in the region
… French forces will ‘re-center’ in Niger.
Sahel region facing “horrendous food crisis.” UN
Jihadism & coups in the Sahel: a complex relationship. Conversation

South + Central Asia (2b)

After six months of the Taliban, Afghanis are safer, poorer, less hopeful. AP

India: Hindu nationalism a “threat to Muslims & India’s status as largest democracy.” LAT
A test for Hindu nationalism as [Uttar Pradesh] goes to the polls. The World
What’s behind the escalating row over hijabs in India? Al Jazeera
In India, head coverings are worn by most women. Pew
… including 60% of Hindu, 89% of Muslim, and 86% of Sikh women.
In Photos: glimpses of northern India’s vanishing nomads. NYT
… the Kharnak of Ladakh. Beautiful photography.
… We could all learn lessons in writing people group profiles from pieces like this. …

Azerbaijan set to expand state control of religion. Eurasianet
… new amendment gives state right to appoint imams, register new religious communities
Pakistan: Yet another sad case of a mob killing someone accused of blasphemy. BBC

Eastern Asia (1.6b)

Keeping the Flies Out. ChinaFile
… ZGBriefs was absolutely right to share this as a featured article.
… Enormously valuable historical context for the current trend of China’s closing.
The Party that Failed: an insider breaks with Beijing. Foreign Policy
… also instructive, the chronology of a professor for the Central Party School.
China not granting passport renewals for non-essential travel. Reuters
Islam with Chinese characteristics: a look at the Hui and others. ChinaSource
China’s social credit score: untangling myth from reality. Merics
… “more bogeyman than reality” … should be worrying about other forms of surveillance
Guangdong likely to face severe water shortages. Sixth Tone
“The mystery of the chained woman in China.” NPRSCMP
… so many elements to this story – censorship, anti-trafficking, China’s demography …

Japan set to ease restrictions, raising daily foreigner arrival cap to 5,000. SCMP
… but no foreign tourists permitted yet …

Southeast Asia (700m)

Myanmar’s ethnic armies, resistance forces plan to boost operations. VOA
Singapore to waive quarantine for vaccinated travelers post-Omicron. CNBC
Vietnam to fully reopen borders from mid-March. Reuters
Tourists returning to Thailand find closed bars, empty streets. Bloomberg
… small businesses closed during the lockdown, haven’t reopened
… larger biz offering steep discounts to lock in few tourists, squeeze out competition
… many tourists skipping Thailand because they have to quarantine upon return
Over 1.3 million Isaac people keen to ride the Laos-China high-speed train. Link
Thailand may open its doors to Lao workers again, but… RFA
… Covid requirements & high employment fees = many will want to enter illegally
Indonesia: Bali reopens to international tourists, and first flights arrive. SCMP
… but there is a 5 day quarantine, and looks like an expensive e-visa. Link

Americas+Europe+Pacific

The quiet flight of Muslims from France. NYT

Russia v Ukraine continues to rattle around
Putin says partial withdrawal but signals threat not over. Axios
US says Russia didn’t withdraw at all, actually sent more troops. NBC
Russia’s military build up enters more dangerous phase. Economist
Opinion: Why Putin would invade Ukraine: he wants democracy to fail. Atlantic
Risk of a Ukraine war spreading in Europe rests on unknowns. AP
… partly on Putin’s ambitions, partly on Western military response, partly on luck.
… “Wars have begun that way, Mr. Ambassador!”

Covid global case data

… 2/18: 419.6m (+13.7m/wk) cases, 5.86m deaths, case load dropping
… 2/11: 405.9m (+21.1m/wk) cases, 5.78m deaths
… 2/03: 384.8m (+26.0m/wk) cases, 5.69m deaths
… 1/28: 358.8m (+18.5m/wk) cases, 5.64m deaths
… 1/21: 340.3m (+20.1m/wk) cases, 5.57m deaths
Trackers: Johns HopkinsNYT

Longer Articles

Autocrats, not terrorists, increasingly taking Americans hostage. New Yorker
… the effort to free a journalist imprisoned in Myanmar and its implications …
Swahili’s bid to become a language for all of Africa. BBC
… 200 million speakers, one of the world’s 10 most widely-spoken languages …
Putting ideas into words. Paul Graham
… “If writing down your ideas always makes them more precise and more complete, then no one who hasn’t written about a topic has fully formed ideas about it.”

Book Notes

The books I’ve read in 2022. The books I read in 2021.

Tech & Futures

Clearview AI tells investors it is pushing toward an index of 100 billion faces. Link

US houses of worship grapple with the future of their online services: some are going so far as to sell their buildings, run virtual services + local community outreach. Link

A look at security issues involved in using transcription services. Link

Twitter launches bot labels to help identify ‘good bots.’ Link
… I’ve created bots in the past. There are good bots. This would be very helpful.

AI-generated faces are deemed slightly more trustworthy than real faces. Link
… and, here’s a guy using AI to create photorealistic images of cartoon characters. Link

Humans are still better than robots at picking strawberries. Wired
… and it’s not likely to change any time soon, but people keep working the problem.

Nissan, like Hyundai, is ending development of gasoline engines. Link

Quotable

“God never gives anyone too much to do. We do that to ourselves or allow others to do it to us.” ~Dallas Willard

“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” ~W. Edwards Deming

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